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Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft Are Helping Google Fight an Order To Hand Over Foreign Emails (businessinsider.com) 67

Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Cisco have filed an amicus brief in support of Google, after a Pennsylvania court ruled that the company had to hand over emails stored overseas in response to an FBI warrant. From a report: An amicus brief is filed by people or companies who have an interest in the case, but aren't directly involved. In this case, it's in Silicon Valley's interest to keep US law enforcement from accessing customer data stored outside the US. It isn't clear what data Google might have to hand over and, last month, the company said it would fight to the order. In the brief, the companies argue: "When a warrant seeks email content from a foreign data center, that invasion of privacy occurs outside the United States -- in the place where the customers' private communications are stored, and where they are accessed, and copied for the benefit of law enforcement, without the customer's consent."
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Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft Are Helping Google Fight an Order To Hand Over Foreign Emails

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does not apply to domestic data. Sounds like a market for foreign cloud services is about to be born..

  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @10:07AM (#54036211) Journal

    Shouldn't it depend on who owns the servers? If the overseas servers are owned by a branch of Google incorporated in the US, then serve the warrant against the US corporation. If the servers are owned by a branch of Google incorporated in a foreign nation then the FBI should go through Interpol to obtain a warrant in the jurisdiction in which the servers/corporation are located.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If I write letters that government wants access to. And I have put them on the box and shipped it to another country.
      What does it matter who owns the shipping box, when the letters are still in the another country?

      Government can not step outside of its borders. This is something very strange thing for a USA government that is so custom to perform military operations outside of its borders and terrorize the world. Thinking that they can just go and do what ever they want and everyone else should just comply.

      • What does it matter who owns the shipping box, when the letters are still in the another country?

        Because if the shipping box is owned by an entity under the jurisdiction of US laws (a US citizen or corporation) they can be ordered to retrieve it? They're not ordering a foreigner or a foreign government to do anything.

      • letters in a shipping box isn't really the case tho - it isn't accessible by you until you get the box back from over seas. In this case the contents of the box is immediately available to you even tho it's in a box overseas.
        So technically, the data is still here, in the United States.

        • Not until it's retrieved it's not. There's a crucial difference between "accessible from" and "stored in".

          Especially if there are laws in the country it's stored in restricting the reasons for which it can be retrieved - such as "no surveillance by foreign governments" (not sure if that's relevant here, but it has been in similar cases in the past)

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      No, you could make the same argument in the physical space. Outside of your borders the US court has no authority.
    • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @12:03PM (#54037115) Journal

      Technically it's not exactly *ownership* that matters. The law is "possession, custody, or control". Basically, a subpoena can be directed at whomever has the ability to produce the item. (Note I didn't write the law, I only read it, so please don't yell at me if you don't like the wording of the law.)

      Imagine I leave my gun at your house. Police can get a court order ordering you to hand over the gun (assuming 4th and 5th amendment issues are satisfied). You don't own the gun, but you have the ability to hand it over - possession, custody, or control.

      This can create an issue when a foreign nation (Ireland in this case) has privacy laws that conflict with US law (which applies to US corporations). A subpoena can be defended by citing legally-recognized confidentiality. It's not clear if a confidentiality under Irish law is a valid defense to a supoena directed at a US corporation under US law.

      Ideally, perhaps the countries should by treaty try respect each other's legal process to the extent practicable - the US should attempt to meet any reasonable Irish requirements for a valid subpoena, and Ireland should then recognize the information has been lawfully subpoenaed.

      It's tricky because on the one hand perhaps in some ways you don't want US law to apply to US-based corporations around the world; on the other hand US corporations shouldn't be able to hide whatever they want by using servers across the border.

    • Shouldn't it depend on who owns the servers? If the overseas servers are owned by a branch of Google incorporated in the US, then serve the warrant against the US corporation. If the servers are owned by a branch of Google incorporated in a foreign nation then the FBI should go through Interpol to obtain a warrant in the jurisdiction in which the servers/corporation are located.

      Really? Suppose you are an American living in the U.S. but you own a vacation home in Tuscany. Should a judge in the U.S. have the authority to issue a warrant that allows U.S. police to raid your Tuscany home?

      • No, but why wouldn't they be able to subpoena you, in the US, to produce something from the Tuscany home? They're acting on you, in the US, not on the home, in Tuscany.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      It depends on the law were the servers are. Handing over data to US law enforcement if local laws do not allow that is usually a criminal act...

    • owned by a branch of Google incorporated in a foreign nation

      That is absolute lunacy. The FBI is investigating something domestic which need data from overseas, data obtainable by a US corporation. Google was made in the US, they are US property - if they say no shoot the board and ask their replacements.

  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @10:14AM (#54036259)

    Such a policy would immediately cause every foreign nation to ban using any American company if they might collect any data that might violate their privacy or security policies... and corporations might just beat their government to the punch on that.

    The American government gets a little bit of above-board data access at the cost of crippling their global competitiveness in IT. That seems like an exceptionally stupid trade-off.

    • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @10:40AM (#54036419)

      We're almost there already.
      Due to the US's known lack of any privacy protections, many areas of our business are prohibited by law from using any provider who will store customer information within the borders of the US. Currently we do business with companies like Google, only if they can provide guarantees that all customer data will be stored outside of the US in jurisdictions with actual privacy protections.
      If this precedent stands, then a re-interpretation of the same law would almost certainly require that we also stop using any provider with any US presence.

      Here's the thing though, it's actually an impossible order for Google to follow. They end up with a choice. Violate a court order in their own country, or break the law in another country they do business in. There's no right answer for them here.

      Of course the USA is famous worldwide for having no clue about the concept of jurisdiction...

      • The court order itself is bad. Google has a distinct corporate entity, with distinct storage, operating in a different nation... and the US courts are essentially saying, "Because you have the same top level owners and your partnership agreements give you access to the data, you're going to get it for us and other nation's laws be damned".

        The best Google (US) can do if this insanity proceeds would be to fully sever business ties with foreign Google entities. Presumably that will mean a huge reduction in t

        • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @11:36AM (#54036911)

          I'd have expected the Americans to use covert means to get the data they want and to pretend to play nicely in public.

          The Americans gave up pretending to play nice years ago, it's not like anyone has believed them recently anyway.

        • This is piercing the corporate veil. If the precedent stands, look for lawsuits targeting corporate officers individually for the actions of the corporation.

          Note that I don't think that's necessarily a bad idea, but probably not what they intend with this.

      • We're not famous for having no clue about jurisdiction.

        We just define our jurisdiction as Everywhere.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      In fact, that has already started. There is a way around though. For example MS does not operate the German MS cloud, Deutsche Telekom does and they will just laugh at any US court order. That way, German companies can put data of German residents on the MS cloud. Otherwise that would likely be a criminal act.

  • As I understand it - in some areas data and communications cannot be stored outside of the respective country relating to that information. So if Google hand overseas comms in the US then they likely go against data protection laws in other countries.

    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      And that's exactly the issue. They get the choice of violating a court order in their own country, or breaking the law in another country they do business in. There's no right answer for them.

      Too bad the USA has never understood the concept of "jurisdiction"...

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Depending on the country, they would open themselves up for criminal prosecution and a prohibition to continue to do business in that country. They certainly do not want any of that.

  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @10:16AM (#54036277)

    Microsoft already won this case in the 2nd circuit. Apparently the Feds are venue-shopping while the case is on appeal to the Supremes?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • It's not venue-shopping, it's part of the design of our system that the Supreme Court weighs in only after the issue has been litigated in multiple circuits, especially if the circuits are split.

      For one thing, if many or all of the circuits agree, there's much less reason to have the Court weigh in. But moreover, it means that the Court can draw on the full record of opinion [slashdot.org] and reasoning from all the lower courts to better inform their decision.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @10:21AM (#54036319) Homepage
    prosecutors: seeking data from outside the US on our servers is an invasion of privacy
    Kim Dot Com: what about me?
    prosecutors: unless that person is a witch, then we must burn the witch.
    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      This is actually completely consistent with the Kim Dot Com case.
      Both are cases of the USA completely ignoring jurisdiction and imposing their laws and enforcement on a worldwide basis with no concern for the country they are actually in.

      The question becomes, just how much longer will the rest of the world bend over backwards to accommodate the US in these matters?

      • >just how much longer will the rest of the world bend over backwards to accommodate the US in these matters?

        How long will the US be militarily, economically, and culturally dominant?

        I'm looking forward to a world where the biggest players have to compromise more with each other... but I'm slightly more comfortable with what I believe the USA will demand than China. It'd be nice to see the EU become cohesive enough to be a strong counter to the US as well.

        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          Thing is, the US is NOT economically dominant, unless the rest of the world agrees that "IP" is economically important.
          The US has a severe trade deficit with the rest of the world on all physical things, it's only "IP" that saves the US. Which means that the rest of the world could chose to cripple the US economically by simply refusing to agree to all the IP ridiculousness.

          Militarily the US is dominant, but would they go to war over copyright? we've never seen any indication of it so far.

    • The people in the first and third lines of your play are not only not the same people, they're opponents. The people in the third line may be called prosecutors, but the people in the first line are not.

  • All the US Government needs to do is bribe foreign governments to chase these companies in their countries and hand over the data.

    It's not like governments protect their people anyway...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You must be confusing the US with the rest of the civilized world

      In the EU for instance we have privacy protections laws which is why for instance you can't visit FB anonymous in Belgium anymore.
      The court ruled FB was violating our privacy laws with their tracking cookies and instead of fixing the cookies FB just removed access for everyone not logged in.

      It suck for people like me without an account but sometimes want to look up information about public events that only have a FB web-presence

  • And help the tech giants defy the deep state!
  • The big data companies don't want to be forced to give up the data under subpoena or court order.

    They want to be able to to sell it to the government instead.

    The government won't buy *anything* if they can use the court system to get it for free, or on an actual-cost basis.

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984

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